Sitting on the beach with an overpriced cocktail in the Montenegrin resort town of Budva while furiously typing up stories about European affairs would seem like a dream if it weren’t for a desperate city tour to the looking for a stable wireless connection.
This in a country where a quick online search for motorway tolls yielded the result: âThere are no motorways in Montenegro.
And yet technology and connectivity will be crucial for COVID-hit economies seeking to attract digital nomads able to work from any location, spurred on by the sudden workplace flexibility offered by the pandemic.
Remote workers can also be a more sustainable alternative to traditional tourism – living and working longer while pumping much-needed foreign money into summer tourist destinations affected by the pandemic.
Some EU countries already seem to be jumping on the bandwagon of digital nomads: Croatia allows non-EU workers to remain income tax-free for a year, competing with similar programs in Czechia and Estonia, while the Romania is looking to launch its own special visa soon.
However, while attracting highly qualified and well-paid professionals may seem like a no-brainer for every country, it is sure to lead to new headaches for Brussels.
There is currently no EU-wide legislation on teleworking, leaving a significant gap in job protection for remote workers.
A new study presented to the European Parliament’s Employment Committee last week found that 41% of highly mobile teleworkers report anxiety, stress, fatigue and sleep disturbances, compared to just a quarter of those on the scene conventional work.
The EP called for a new law on the âright to disconnectâ, raising a whole new set of questions, the main one of which is enforcement. Who is supposed to enforce this right? The host country or the state where the employer’s head office is located? Where do freelancers, often in a more vulnerable position anyway, fit into this equation?
The study also reports new levels of invasion of privacy by employers, with new surveillance tools to monitor workers only exacerbating their anxiety and leading to ‘virtual presenteeism’, the pressure to be. present and to be efficient to justify not being physically present, whatever the well-being.
Compounding mental health and privacy issues, the increase in remote working can exacerbate existing inequalities, for example people with disabilities.
We could hope that teleworking opens new doors for this part of the population.
However, the European Commission The figures reveal that only 64.3% of people with disabilities have the Internet at home, compared to 87.9% of the general population. Increasingly, in the age of the home office, lack of home internet access means no access to the job market.
Perhaps the biggest puzzle looms in this holy grail of state creation: taxation. How comfortable are we with the idea of ââdigital nomads living for long periods in a country without contributing to its social safety nets?
And then there’s the fact that tourism has long had a dark side for the communities who depend on it for their income. As Europe rushes to revive an industry decimated by border closures in pandemic era with COVID digital passports and mass vaccination campaigns, age-old questions about sustainability are pushed to the back of the queue waiting.
Gentrification and emergence of a new form of short-term rental market, described by some as “Airbnb Syndrome‘, are just a few of these drawbacks. Digital nomads, who may only stay for a year instead of a few weeks, can have an even greater impact on their host communities.
Work as we know it is unlikely to return to what it was before the pandemic, which means millions of people will be released across the EU from their desks. Yet the questions raised by this accelerated digital metamorphosis are far from resolved.
Hopefully European politicians consider these changes and remember that as we all rush to regain a sense of normalcy this summer, not all of us will be returning to office.
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Black Sea fish stocks are dwindling and commercial fishing is increasingly causing environmental damage, raising concerns that have caught the attention of NGOs and EU lawmakers. EURACTIV Bulgaria reports.
Google has said it will make changes to its global advertising business to ensure it does not abuse its dominant position, giving in to antitrust pressure for the first time in a landmark deal with French authorities.
Hydrogen represents a tiny fraction of the energy mix today, but its importance is expected to grow rapidly in the years to come as the European Union aims to create a clean European hydrogen market to boost industry decarbonization heavy. Find out more in our special file.
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Be careful withâ¦
- The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, takes part in the European Parliament plenary devoted to national recovery and resilience plans.
- Vice-President Frans Timmermans attends the 20th annual conference of the German Council for Sustainable Development.
- Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni speaks at the Euronext ESG summit on financing the blue and green economy.
Views are those of the author
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]